Are you really special?

Time and experience bring about perspective.

We are told as children that we are special and unique. We are told that we are meant for a purpose. We are told that the world needs us and our special gifts. But because we are all told this, most don’t fully believe it. And as time goes by and life gets more difficult, we stop believing it altogether. You think are no more special than anyone else. You don’t deserve more or better. So you lower your standards and start accepting there is nothing special about your existence. Just for a moment, ask yourself, “what if what I was told as a kid is true?” “What if I really am special and meant for great things?” Maybe not for everyone, but surely for you. There are times in life when you have won, proved the naysayers wrong and done amazing things, but the burdens of life prevented you from believing your accomplishments are truly unique. What if you fully believed with your whole heart that you are special? What is the victories in your life are not freak occurrences? What if YOU are the freak occurrence because you are truly one of a kind? What would life look like if you believed it? How much better would the world be if special people started believing in themselves? Or better yet, how much worse would the world be if people stopped doing special things because “no one is special”? What if you are one of a kind? What if?

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Communication 101

There’s a popular book by John C Maxwell named Everyone Communicates, Few Connect. After reading it, and from my experience in the marketplace, nearly 15 years, I’m convinced that most people are not communicating well, although they think they are. In fact, I would break down all communication into three categories, which I will explain below. I believe that most people never truly make it beyond the first category. My belief is easily supported by the lack of harmony in the workplace, governments, and even in partnerships and marriages. Perhaps the hardest thing in life is to effectively communicate so that others not only understand what you are saying, but can logically and maybe even emotionally connect with what is said and take action. Let’s explore what I believe are the three levels of communication:

SAYING SOMETHING. This is the most basic level of communication. We all say things through speaking, writing, signing or some other form of communication. Unfortunately, much of what we say is not necessarily heard, read, or seen, and much less is fully understood by our intended recipients. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve asked a manager about some unfinished task or some other issue and was met with the reply, “I told him or her to do it…”. Therein lies the problem—just because something was said, does not mean that the message was understood well and acted upon. I believe most communication falls within this first category—things are said, memos are written, laws are signed, but they are not effectively communicated so that the recipient truly understands the message.

EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION. This level of communication occurs when a message is properly understood by the intended recipients and can be repeated back essentially verbatim to the person who originated the message. I rarely see this in relationships or companies anymore. We are so distracted by smart devices and screens in our cars, kitchens and even bathrooms that it is difficult to understand what is being communicated to us and even more difficult to understand the messages being conveyed. Moreover, often the message being communicated doesn’t effectively state why the intended recipient should pay attention to the message. Too often we ask people to do things without explaining exactly why it is important that they do it. Without a sense of importance, no message will be effectively communicated.

CONNECTION. This is the ideal in regards to communication. Connection goes beyond just speaking and effectively communicating, it creates an emotional response in the recipient that causes him or her to reflect on what is being said and possibly take action. Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, Socrates, Winston Churchill, Ayn Rand, Ralph W. Emerson and even Karl Marx and Hitler went beyond speaking to and communicating with people, they all connected with and influenced people on a high level. The ultimate goal of any leader is to connect with people. I believe this is the reason leadership is so difficult. It’s very difficult to actually connect with people on a high level. It’s easy to “say something” or even have your message understood. Connection is hard.

When you are speaking, writing or engaging in any form of communication, it may be useful to ask yourself, “What level of communication am I engaging in?” It could very well be that you think you are connecting with an audience, when in reality you are merely speaking, and what is being said is just as easily being ignored. It’s difficult to connect, especially in our very distracted world but connection is the key to building real relationships and creating massive action. Connection is the ideal when communicating, although it is rarely achieved. My suggestion would be to work on effectively communicating so that your recipients actually understand what you are saying and why you are saying it. Too many words are wasted nowadays. Don’t let your words be wasted as well!

Where Are You Going?

Know Where You Are Headed

I don’t know if you feel the same, but I’m sick of hearing that “life is a journey” and that “it’s about the journey, not the destination”.  These cliches do very little good for anyone and more that’s likely believing them can actually hold someone back from achievement.  I agree that it is important to be mindful of what you are experiencing in the moment and be grateful for the experiences we have in life, but I would argue that if life is a journey, all journeys should have a destination.  In other words, there should be a direction or a target in which you set out to reach or you will end up aimless and drifting though life.  In my experience, the majority of unhappy people are not unhappy because they failed to reach a goal or hit a target.  They are unhappy because they have no idea what they want, where they are headed and feel like they have no control over what is happening in their life.  In other words, if you don’t set a destination for your journey, life will happen TO YOU, not FOR YOU. 

While hitting targets and reaching goals is important for a sense of fulfillment and importance,  I would suggest the real power lies in setting the goal, not reaching it.  Making a decision about the direction your life is headed in shows yourself and others that you have agency in your own existence.  It’s not possible to always achieve every goal we set due to unforeseen circumstances that are outside our control.  But missing a target is much better for a sense of well being that having to target at all.  Aimlessness is a tragedy that will throw your life off track.  Having a sense of purpose and direction is vital to feeling alive and happy in my opinion. That is why we must be careful about internalizing platitudes that are perpetuated online if they allow us to rationalize away the fact that we have not decided what we want from life.  We have to decide what we ask from life.

I admit that it is difficult to know exactly what we want in life at all times.  This is especially true when we are young.  But having a general sense of what makes us happy and what type of life we would like is important.  If you have no idea what you want from life and your philosophy is that “you are just here to enjoy the ride” or some other similar philosophy, I can guarantee you that at the very least you will continually wonder what your purpose is and you will often be at the mercy of others who have a created a plan for their life.  Of course, plans change and destinations must be adjusted or postponed for external events- that’s just life.  But that doesn’t mean we should give up on setting goals and targets for ourselves.  These are essential for our well being.  If life is a truly a journey, it would do us all well to remember the final destination is death.  It is up to you to decide what destinations you’d like to see along the way before the journey ends. 

The Problem With Passion

We are often told to find something we are passionate about to do for our work because it will make us happy. I think this is terrible advice. How many people tried out their passion in the marketplace and ended up on unemployment and food stamps? Where do you think the term “starving artist” comes from? Don’t get me wrong, if you can find something you’re passionate about and also make a good living doing, that’s fantastic! But first and foremost, making money is about providing value to others in the marketplace. Finding an occupation that others value and are willing to pay for is the fastest way for most people to produce income. You may not be passionate about what you are doing, but at least you can fulfill financial needs. After you accumulate some savings, you may be able to start a side business based around something you are really passionate about and make it flourish. However, there are a couple of warnings that I would offer regarding mixing passion and work…

1. What you are passionate about today may change in the future. I can tell you from personal experience that what I was really passionate about in the past, I no longer have any interest in. Some things I believe I will always be passionate about–fitness, business, and writing. But some things, like Magic the Gathering and wrestling, which I used to be very passionate about, no longer do it for me. If I had decided out of high school to start a business selling comics and playing cards, or becoming a wrestler, I imagine that I’d be wildly unhappy today. I’d probably also be struggling to make ends meat.

2. Work and business have a tendency to make you question whether you are really passionate about something. In other words, it can lead some people to actually hate what they used to be passionate about. For example, I learned very quickly after I opened a health club, that my passion for bodybuilding and fitness had nothing to do whatsoever with actually owning and running a health club. My skills as a bodybuilder did not translate into increased revenues, decreased business expenses, higher employee morale, or anything necessary to make my businesses a success. Also, as some members of my clubs will tell you, I have a problem with buying too much new equipment because I personally want it, rather than examining whether it truly adds value to the customer experience or the value of the business as a whole. If I’m being totally honest, my passion for fitness has faded at times because now I associate many new problems and stresses with something that is my passion. That is a very difficult thing for most people to handle emotionally. It has taken me many years to figure out how to separate training with the realities of owning a training facility.

3. Being passionate about something does not necessarily mean that you will be good at doing it for a living, nor does it mean that you were meant to do it. What I’m trying to hint at here is that your purpose in this life may not be what you believe you are passionate about. If you are very lucky, you will find passion in your purpose. If this is the case, you will be one of the few who can produce income, by doing what you like and also by helping others (purpose). I suggest that you look for purpose first, and then try to find what it is about fulfilling your purpose that you can be passionate about. For instance, as a bodybuilder and health club owner with autoimmune disease, I can build businesses for others to become healthy and transform themselves, and also serve as an example for overcoming certain disabilities. I can’t do that only by lifting weights though. No one is going to pay me for lifting weights and doing cardio. (I wish they would!) I can, however use my passion for lifting and mix it with my purpose (helping others overcome obstacles). This is why I continue to own health clubs as opposed to doing all passive investing in things like real estate.

4. Passion often does not mix with logic. The Stoics advised us to always use reason instead of emotion, because they understood that our emotions could deceive us. Have you ever been in an argument and said some atrocious things? Looking back you may realize that saying those things were not useful in the least and you regret not thinking before speaking. This is an example of letting passion overcome reason. Eleanor Roosevelt was once complimented on her “passion” for getting social legislation passed. She responded, “I hardly think the word passion applies to me.” The First Lady understood that she was driven by something more important than passion. She was driven by purpose. If she let herself become too passionate about anything, she may have forgotten reason to ensure that her purpose was realized. Eleanor Roosevelt understood that purpose is more useful and longer lasting than passion.

So beware of any advice suggesting that if you always follow your passion, you’ll be happy. You may not. Passions fade. Passions confuse our ability to reason. What we are passionate about today may change. Perhaps no one will pay us to engage in our passion. Instead, focus on mixing purpose with passion. Finding your purpose and then finding areas where you can be passionate about that purpose will lead to far more fulfillment and likely far more income than choosing to follow a career based on passion alone.

In health,
Sean

Secrets…

Why Secrets Matter

“The best entrepreneurs know this; every great business is built around a secret that’s hidden from the outside. A great company is a conspiracy to change the world; when you share your secret, the recipient becomes a fellow conspirator.” – Peter Thiel (Co-Founder of PayPal)

The best business are based on secrets. In other words, they start out to work on problems that no one else is working on or talking about. Think about Google; they saw there was a lack of efficiency in searching the internet. Their “secret” was that internet searches could be extremely relevant, even to the point Google could predict what you were searching for. Google is now essentially a monopoly for internet search. With electricity it was Benjamin Franklin and then Edison and Tesla who sought to uncover the secret force of electricity. Ford’s secret was to make automobiles available and affordable for every family. Alexander Fleming’s secret was to uncover and defeat deadly bacteria that claimed so many lives. His discovery was Penicillin and many millions of lives have been saved through this and similar drugs.

The uncovering of these secrets led to giant industries that have transformed life as we know it today. The people behind these giant companies would not have succeeded if they had simply tried to do what others were already doing. Most people and companies set out to do something slightly better than those around them. This is essentially copying what others are doing with the intention of doing it just a little bit better or faster, or less expensive. The problem with competing like this is that it’s very hard to build a truly great and lasting business if so many others are able to do what you are doing. The opposite of this would be to set out building a monopoly company- one that is working on solving the problems that no one else is. The uncovering of secrets will lead to incredible value for mankind. Focussing on secrets will also lead to a lasting company because no one else is really working to uncover what you are.

Two Types of Secrets
In his book Zero to One, Peter Thiel suggests there are two types of secrets to uncover: those about people and those about nature. Many believe that most secrets in nature have been discovered, but that’s not true at all. For instance, why does all matter vibrate? Why do people develop auto-immune disease? Why do we our cells have to age and deteriorate? There are many secrets in nature that need to be uncovered. There are perhaps even more secrets about people that need to be examined. For example, why are some people prone to violence? Why do a majority of marriages end in divorce? Why do people get married in the first place? Why do we find it necessary to lie in order to avoid discomfort? Why do some people succeed in their goals while others give up and quit? I’m sure that you can come up with come secrets as well. The main takeaway here is that secrets matter a great deal because working on them will lead to new technologies and innovations that will improve life for all mankind.

A secret by definition is keeping something hidden or unexplained. We can find secrets by asking, “what is nature not telling us?” Or, “what are people not telling us?” So what secrets are you working to uncover? You may just change the world for the better by solving a major problem for humanity. There are secrets all around us and they are possible to solve, we just have to know where to look for them and truly believe they are possible to solve. Sometimes we assume that others must be working on a problem because it seems so obvious or important. To that I would say that if you don’t believe you will discover the answer to a secret in nature or in people, you won’t! You will fulfill your own prophecy that you can’t solve it, or you shouldn’t bother because someone else “must” be working on it already. Maybe someone else is working on the problem, but it could be that you have the very insight needed to solve the problem. Do you want to change the world? Look for secrets. They are everywhere.  If you are working on secrets you might just create something new for mankind to use.  If you are working on what everyone else is, you will end up competing for the same slice of the pie…
In health,
Sean

33 Lessons I’ve Learned

33 Lessons:

Tomorrow I turn 33 years old. So, here is a lesson for every year that I have learned and find valuable enough to share with all of you.

-Think about business from a customer centric angle to find insight.
-Save money. At least 20%. if you don’t, you’ll be at the mercy of those that did save.
-When you first date someone, you’d do anything for them including rubbing their feet and taking out the trash. Don’t lose that if you want a lasting relationship.
-Don’t always react immediately. Acting without thinking is usually worse than not acting.
– Don’t let fear drive you. Life is scary. If you want security, go to a mental ward. They’ll take care of you.
– All government is force. It is a monopoly on violence. Nothing more, nothing less.
– You and I owe to each other to look out for our common good. But I have no right to rob another because I believe I can use their property better than they can. (That’s called taxation)
– Read to your children and spend most of your days with them.
– Only you can teach yourself. Others can provide information, but you must do the learning.
-Read at least a book a month to ensure a better future.
– Work harder on yourself than you do on your job and you’ll get better at both.
– You are not poor because someone else is rich.
– Don’t wait to be wealthy;start helping others today.
– You don’t know everything. But God(the Universe if you prefer) does, so it might be wise to ask for guidance.
– Treat everything as if it was the last time you will see it. You quality of life will improve dramatically.
-Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. Mark 4:25. ( This is talking about gratitude)
– Crap attracts flies. Don’t have crappy thoughts.
-Music makes life fulfilled in every way. It makes your mind vibrate at higher frequencies and attracts love to you.
– Your success will always reflect the standards of your peer group.
– Start everyday by writing down ten things you’re grateful for.
– The quality of your life will be determined by how comfortable you are with uncertainty (risk).
– You are not a goose. You don’t have to fly south during winter. Choose your own direction.
-Carbohydrates make you fat because of insulin. Earn your carbs. Don’t just eat them without training to use them.
– You can change your attitude by changing your state. Do some push-ups or train to operate at a higher level.
-Most people believe they desire Liberty, but sell themselves into a slave- like existence for false security or because of a lack of creativity.
– Skip a meal once in a while, it can help you feel better and get in touch with yourself.
– Any disease can be defeated if the reasons behind beating it are strong enough and the mind believes it can be done.
– If you want a great life focus on appreciation instead of expectation.
– Use your money to buy assets that produce income and not liabilities.
– Energy is something you produce, not something you have.
– The quality of your life is determined by your philosophy towards life.
– Disciplines are the keys to success in any area. The first discipline to learn is controlling your thoughts.

-You become the story you tell yourself. To change your life, start telling yourself a different story that serves you.

In Health,

Sean

The Right Things

One of the Harder Things in Life

Sometimes it’s really hard to know if you are doing the “right” thing. It’s often hard to even know what the right thing is. No matter what my age is or how much experience I’ve gained, I continue to wonder if what I’m doing is really the right thing to do. I don’t think anyone can know for sure until time passes and they can see the look at the result of their actions. Therein lies the hardest part- you have to wait to find out whether the actions you have taken were actually the right ones in getting you towards your goal. The waiting part is what drives me nuts. I’m the type of person that likes to see results as quickly as possible and I despise waiting long periods. I know that this is the source of most of my anxiety. I’m constantly questioning, which can be good to a point, but will quickly lead to either analysis paralysis or can lead to me second-guessing myself.

I don’t think I’m alone here. If you are a parent, a business person, an athlete, or a partner in a relationship, I think it’s very common to second guess whether your are doing things the best way possible. I’m all of these things, so some of the questions that run through my head are the following; “Should I have gotten angry with my kid?” “How do I communicate well enough to make an impact?” “What is the best way to teach this person?” “How do I know what the best way to invest is?” “Are they acting this way because of something I’ve done?” “Am I doing things the best way possible?” “Is there a better path that I’ve ignored?” “Am I a good father?” “How can I be a better athlete, husband and business person.” “Am I spending money on the wrong things?” “Why do I always second guess myself?” I’m curious, do any of these questions sound familiar?

Of course, all of these questions stem from the possibility that I could in fact be wrong. And being wrong about anything could have some consequences. We are fearful of the consequences of being wrong because our most basic fears are that we are not enough, and that we won’t be loved. Being wrong can lead to both of these fears. For instance, if I spend money in the wrong areas of my business, I could go out of business, significantly affecting the lives of my family and employees as well as my customers. If I yell at my wife or kids, they could grow to resent me and I won’t be loved. If I train a certain way because I think it’s the best way for me to train, I could be hampering my ability to reach my full potential as an athlete. These are all things that I fear. Although I realize the harm and futility in allowing this fear into my thinking, I also realize the dangers of being too naive about the consequences of all my actions.

I bring all this up, not to complain or admit that I have weaknesses, rather I’m writing this to remind us all that doubt and fear is normal. It’s truly very difficult to know if you are doing the right things in every area of your life. There are some things that I’ve recently been doing that I believe have eased my anxiety in this area. The first is meditation. I can’t honestly say that I’m great at clearing my head of all thoughts, but meditation has helped me distance myself from my thoughts and take a more rational approach to analyzing whether these thoughts are helping me or hindering me from my desired outcome. The second thing that has helped me is to remember the times when I did something extremely well and how I felt before, during and after. This exercise helps me gain perspective on how I was able to deal with other obstacles and events in my life and how I felt during those times. If I remember that I was nervous and stressed out during a past event, but I still achieve the desired outcome, I can ease my mind about the stresses I currently have by reminding myself that it will work out. If I was absolutely confident, that will help me to realize I need to replace my current thoughts or doubt with those of strength and confidence.

The last exercise that has helped me is to visualize who I have to become to attract the things and feelings I truly want in my life. For example, the current version of me is only capable of achieving a certain level. But, how would the best version of myself act right now? What could he accomplish? I like this exercise because it reminds me that to “get more than I have, I have to become more than I am”. By focussing on how the best version of myself would act, I find that negative thoughts fall away quickly, because my highest self understands the futility of constantly criticizing and second guessing myself. “How would my highest self act right now?” I think that’s a great question we should all ask more.

Remember, doubt and fear is a normal part of life. It’s not shameful to admit that you have both fears and doubts. But, remember also that there is something you can do to overcome the fears and doubts that creep in. By distancing yourself from your thoughts, changing your state and focussing on times that you did extremely well, you can change the biochemistry of your brain and switch the focus from fear to confidence and tranquility. After all, I think one of the most truly helpful beliefs is that you should remain calm that it will all work out! If we believe it will work out, many new possibilities will open up to us. We must have faith in ourselves that we can figure it out and live an incredible life.

In health

Sean